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April 28, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

British Police Foil "Active Terror Plot" (BBC News)
    Police say they foiled an active terror plot on Thursday after a woman was shot during a raid on a house in Willesden, northwest London.
    The woman, in her 20s, was one of the subjects of the investigation. A neighbor said the family who lived at the house were from Somalia.
    A raid also took place in Kent, with six people arrested in total.
    The Metropolitan Police said the suspects were arrested on suspicion of the commission, preparation and instigation of terrorist acts.

Man Armed with Knives Arrested in London (Reuters)
    British police arrested a man carrying three knives near the prime minister's office in London on Thursday on suspicion of preparing an act of terrorism.
    A Western security source said the man was on the radar of counter-terrorism officers and the domestic intelligence agency MI5 before his arrest.

Israel Fires Patriot Missile to Intercepts Drone from Syria - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    The IDF fired a Patriot anti-ballistic missile to intercept an unmanned aerial vehicle that infiltrated Israel from Syria on Thursday.

U.S. Battling ISIS Drones with Electronic Warfare Counter-Drone Capabilities - Mark Pomerleau (C4ISRNET)
    Col. John Dorrian, spokesman for the U.S. anti-Islamic State coalition, said on April 26 that they have been able to provide some capabilities to partners on the battlefield to disrupt ISIS unmanned aerial systems (UAS), which are used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance against friendly forces and to drop ordinance, albeit indiscriminately.
    Dorrian noted specifically that electronic warfare capabilities are being shared.

Foreign Islamic State Fighters Are "Fighting to the Death" in Mosul - Latika Bourke (Sydney Morning Herald-Australia)
    Western-backed Iraqi forces are capturing some Islamic State fighters as they fight to liberate Mosul and Raqqa, but the vast majority of foreign fighters are "fighting to the death."
    Col. John Dorrian, spokesperson for the coalition against ISIS, said just 1,000 remain in Mosul, Iraq, while 3-4,000 are still fighting in Raqqa, Syria.
    In Mosul, "a lot of the foreign fighters are very hardcore and they came here to die," he said. "They're not surrendering, they're fighting to the death."

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Bath University Students Vote to Reject Israel Boycott - Lianne Kolirin (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
    Students at Bath University have voted down a motion to adopt a BDS policy on campus.
    The motion, which described Israel as an "apartheid regime," was rejected by 343 votes to 249 with 216 abstentions.

Israeli Amputee Sets New Marathon World Record - Allon Sinai (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel's Eitan Hermon set a world record in the marathon for single-leg amputee runners on Sunday, clocking a time of 2:56.53 hours in Vienna, Austria.
    Hermon, who lost a leg in the 2006 war in Lebanon as an IDF reservist, competes with one prosthetic leg.
    He finished in first place in the IPC Athletics Marathon World Championships at the London Marathon two years ago.
    Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev called Hermon to congratulate him, saying, "You proved that we are a strong and steadfast people, and that we cannot be destroyed."

How the King of Morocco Saved the Jews - Julie Masis (Times of Israel)
    During World War II, although Morocco was a French protectorate and France's Vichy regime was complicit in the murder of French Jews, not a single Jew living in Morocco was sent to a concentration camp.
    King Mohammed V of Morocco allegedly told the Nazis, "There are no Jewish citizens, there are no Muslims citizens, they are all Moroccans."
    Vichy officials attempted at one point to make an inventory of property held by Jews, but Mohammed V promised to slow down the census, said Robert Satloff, the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who wrote a book about the Holocaust in Arab countries.
    As a result, Jewish property in Morocco was not confiscated, unlike Jewish property in neighboring Algeria.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israeli UK Ambassador Speaks of Fresh Peace Initiative - Harriet Sherwood
    Israel is pressing for a fresh Middle East peace initiative involving Arab states, Mark Regev, the Israeli ambassador to the UK, told a meeting at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London on Thursday, as pro-Palestinian activists protested outside. Regev said Israel "wants to see larger and greater involvement from the Arab world" in new peace negotiations. Pragmatic Sunni Arab states saw a "convergence of interest" with Israel in relation to Iran and had "significant cards to play," he added. He said that Israel had approached the Trump administration about "trying to get the peace process back on track."
        Referring to the demonstrators, Regev said, "Israel cherishes freedom of expression and freedom of speech. To the people outside, I would say this: they claim to be the friends of the Palestinians. But by supporting a hardline, maximalist Palestinian position, are they friends of the Palestinian people? They are chanting, 'From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free' - meaning Israel has no right to exist. I'd like to tell them that Israel is not going away."  (Guardian-UK)
  • All 100 Senators Sign Letter Asking for Equal Treatment of Israel at the UN - Anne Gearan
    All 100 U.S. senators signed a letter Thursday asking UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to address entrenched bias against Israel at the world body. "We urge you to ensure that Israel is treated neither better nor worse than any other UN member in good standing," the letter said. "Continued targeting of Israel by the UN Human Rights Council and other UN entities is unacceptable."
        "Since it is rare for all 100 senators to agree on an issue, this letter sends a powerful bipartisan message to the UN that its anti-Israel bias must end," said Marshall Wittmann, spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. (Washington Post)
        See also Text: Letter from 100 Senators to UN Secretary-General (U.S. Senate)
  • Abbas Turns Screw on Hamas by Cutting Gaza's Electricity - Nidal al-Mughrabi
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has decided to turn the screw on Hamas that has kept Gaza out of his control for a decade. The PA on Thursday told Israel it would no longer pay for the electricity Israel supplies to Gaza.
        Ostensibly, the reasons behind the decision were related to non-payment of bills and a shortage of foreign donor funds. But regaining a measure of control over Gaza could empower Abbas politically as Israel and the Palestinians await an expected push by U.S. President Trump for a revival of peace efforts.
        Palestinian Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah said Wednesday in Ramallah, "Hamas should relinquish control of Gaza." Hamdallah said Hamas should accept an Abbas initiative to form a true unity government immediately. Hamas has, since its founding in 1987, advocated the destruction of Israel, seeking all of historic Palestine as its land, even if some of its leaders might accept a long-term truce. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Defense Minister: Israel Open to Dialogue with Moderate Arab States - Anna Ahronheim
    In a pre-Independence Day interview, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said, "We don't have any illusions, but we are open to dialogue with Arab states....Iran is a big threat to the entire region, not just to Israel....There is an understanding in the world about this. At the Munich Security Conference last month [in March], Iran was the biggest topic. Everyone spoke about Iran, not about the Palestinians. The speech by [Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister] Adel al-Jubeir was very interesting; it was the first time I saw a high-ranking Saudi official talking about this."
        It is "very clear that terrorist organizations are unable to survive without Iran," which continues to finance terrorist groups with at least $300 million a year. The moderate Sunni states in the region "know that Israel is a very strong and reliable ally and it is in their interests to work with us. We are open to all kinds of dialogue with all moderate states."
        Israel has "adopted a very clear policy regarding Hamas and Hizbullah. We have no intention to launch any military operation on either border....We try to avoid war because no one wants a war, but sometimes, even despite our best intentions and desires, there can be accidents that can lead to a war. If someone wants to impose a war on us, it will be a completely different war than they have ever seen before."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Graves of Israel's Fallen Soldiers Adorned with Flags for Memorial Day - Lilach Shoval
    A group of IDF soldiers moved from section to section of the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem on Wednesday, from the graves of the soldiers who fell in 1948 to the casualties from the 2014 Gaza war, placing a small Israeli flag marked with a black ribbon at every headstone. This is being done in preparation for the Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism, which begins at sundown on Sunday. By the time Memorial Day begins, every grave of a fallen soldier in Israel's military cemeteries and in the military sections of civilian cemeteries will be marked with the special flag.
        IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot said, "We will hold our heads high and vow to carry on the mission for which the best of our sons and daughters died - ensuring our existence as a free people in their own country. May the memory of the fallen be a blessing."  (Israel Hayom)
  • Israel Unveils Remembrance Hall for Fallen Soldiers Ahead of Memorial Day - Luke Tress
    Israel's Defense Ministry unveiled a Remembrance Hall for the country's fallen soldiers at the entrance to Jerusalem's Mount Herzl national cemetery on Thursday, ahead of next week's Memorial Day on May 1. The site commemorates every one of the more than 23,000 soldiers killed since before the establishment of the state. The names of the fallen soldiers and the dates of their deaths are inscribed on the bricks lining the wall of the 260-meter path. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Getting Away with Murder - Editorial
    American taxpayers' money is being used by the Palestinian Authority to encourage and glorify murderous terrorism. Official PA policy provides an annual stipend for "martyrs" who are killed while attempting to murder innocent civilians, thus incentivizing murderous terrorism. A group of lawmakers has drafted legislation to end this scandalous state of affairs and Israel should support this legislative effort, even if it risks destabilizing the PA.
        On March 8, 2016, [American West Point veteran] Taylor Force was stabbed to death on the Jaffa beachfront after Bashar Masalha, a Palestinian from Kalkilya, went on a murder spree that left 12 others wounded, including a pregnant woman. The tragic story of Taylor Force has become a rallying cry to force the PA to stop funding the families of so-called martyrs and payrolling convicted terrorists serving time in Israeli prisons.
        A Palestinian political culture that prioritizes violence against Israelis above nation-building and economic development is the single biggest obstacle to peace. Standing by while the PA allocates U.S. money to a culture of hatred and terrorism is hardly an option. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Iran on Notice - Lee Smith
    Numerous federal agencies are carrying out a comprehensive review of Iran policy including the intelligence community, the State Department, the Treasury Department, Justice, and the Pentagon. The process is being managed by National Security Council staff. The debate over Iran appears to be between those who want to cut them off at the knees and those who want to knock their block off, with arguments over exactly how badly and when.
        While the Trump administration sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan last week to certify that Iran is in compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action - the nuclear deal, this does not signal, a Trump official told me, that this White House has concluded the JCPOA serves American interests. Rather, certification is a placeholder during the review process, while the administration plans how to move forward on Iran.
        This White House does not see Iran as a potential partner in regional stability, as a counterbalance to Saudi Arabia and Israel, as the Obama team did. Rather, it recognizes Iran is a very big problem, and the nuclear program is only one part of that problem. As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last week, "We have to look at Iran in a very comprehensive way in terms of the threat it poses in all areas of the region and the world."  (Weekly Standard)
  • Why Boeing and Airbus Deals with Iran Shouldn't Fly - Clifford D. May
    During the final months of the Obama administration, the U.S. Treasury Department issued a license for Boeing to sell 100 new planes to Iran Air. Treasury also issued licenses to Airbus for a similar deal. Iranian officials claim these aircraft will be used for civilian purposes only. The evidence suggests they're lying.
        Emanuele Ottolenghi at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies tracked 768 Iran Air flights between Tehran and Damascus since Jan. 16, 2016. Few are ferrying tourists. They are supplying military equipment and fighters in support of Assad's forces and those of Hizbullah. In 2011, Treasury "designated" Iran Air for providing material support and services to Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. Treasury noted that Iran Air had been transporting "missile or rocket components to Syria." Yet suddenly, just over a year ago, the Obama administration removed Iran Air's designation.
        As a matter of principle, President Trump should not allow Boeing nor any other American companies to be in the business of aiding and abetting terrorists and war criminals. The writer is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Washington Times)
  • Syria After the U.S. Missile Strikes: Policy Options - Michael Singh
    Our relative neglect of the Syria conflict has not spared us the expenditure of resources. The U.S. has provided at least $6.5 billion in humanitarian aid to Syrians (more than any other country), provided at least $400 million in aid to the Syrian opposition, and spent billions of dollars more on the campaign against ISIS in Syria.
        The U.S. should insist that any internationally recognized settlement to the conflict in Syria should require Iran to withdraw its forces and its proxies from the country. Similarly, any discussion of terrorist groups in Syria should address not only Sunni, but Shia terrorist groups such as Hizbullah. The U.S. should warn Iran that it reserves the right to use force, or back Israel's use of force, against any IRGC or Hizbullah positions established in proximity to the Israeli or Jordanian borders.
        The U.S. should aggressively target Iranian entities that violate sanctions on Syria, and block any aircraft sales to Iran unless the recipient airlines can positively demonstrate that they are not involved in ferrying fighters or materiel to Syria. The writer is managing director of the Washington Institute. This is from his testimony submitted to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, April 27, 2017. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Jerusalem: Rooted in 3,000 Years of History - Nir Barkat
    Fifty years ago, Jerusalem was reunited in a stunning victory as Israel shocked the world by defeating five Arab armies in six days. Since this incredible victory, Jerusalem has returned to its founding promise as the united, eternal capital of Israel, open to all. Since Jerusalem's reunification, Israel has maintained freedom of religion, freedom of movement and freedom of expression for all its residents.
        Unlike the countries around us, we celebrate diversity, especially in our capital. Today, in one square kilometer in the Holy City, 100 holy sites - for Jews, Muslims and Christians - exist peacefully, side by side. As mayor, my vision for the future for Jerusalem is rooted in its 3,000-year history. Jerusalem is the heart and soul of the Jewish people. The writer is the mayor of Jerusalem. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Video: Jerusalem: 4,000 Years in 5 Minutes (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • Weekend Feature

  • The Jews Who Saved Thomas Jefferson's Home at Monticello - Meir Soloveichik
    Thomas Jefferson was buried at Monticello, his estate in Charlottesville, Va., on July 4, 1826. Close to his home lies a grave belonging to Rachel Phillips Levy. According to the inscription, she died on the 7 of Iyar, 5591, following a calendar used by traditional Jews. How did a Jewish grave end up in Monticello?
        Uriah Phillips Levy devoted most of his life to the American Navy, in which he served with distinction and led an ultimately successful campaign against flogging. Though he faced anti-Semitism and assaults on his reputation throughout his career, Uriah's legacy is honored today: The Jewish Chapel at the Naval Academy in Annapolis bears his name. Uriah's hero was Thomas Jefferson.
        In 1834 Uriah purchased Monticello, which had fallen into ruin, and devoted himself to its rehabilitation, restoring the house and purchasing land that had once been part of the estate. Uriah also made Monticello the permanent home of his mother, Rachel. When she died in 1839 (5591), Uriah buried her on the property.
        The writer is the rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel in Manhattan and director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought of Yeshiva University. (Wall Street Journal)

If Arab States Are Involved in the Peace Process, They Will Seek to Fulfill Palestinian Aspirations - Dennis Ross (Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington)

  • Today, Israel and many of the Arab Gulf states see a common strategic threat emanating from Iran. In Saudi Arabia in August 2016, leading Saudi officials told me, "Israel is not an enemy." They were instead preoccupied with Iran and its use of Shia militias to weaken Arab states and gain hegemony in the region.
  • The Saudis and Emiratis, and their Arab allies, see the Iranian threat in existential terms. Saudi officials said they could anticipate far-reaching collaboration with Israel once the Palestinian conflict was resolved.
  • There is, in all likelihood, security cooperation going on below the radar screen. No one calls attention to it, but that does not make it any less real.
  • After Israel struck a convoy on January 18, 2015, traveling near the Golan Heights, killing an Iranian Quds Force general, Mohammad Ali Allahdadi, and a Hizbullah operative, Jihad Mughniyeh (the son of Imad Mughniyeh), the Twitter-sphere in Saudi Arabia lit up applauding what the Israelis had done.
  • While the logic for an Arab or regional role in solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is strong, there should be no illusions.
  • The Arab states will want to show that they are delivering for the Palestinians what they cannot deliver for themselves. They will not forsake Palestinian national aspirations but seek to fulfill them.

    The writer is counselor at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and served in senior positions in four U.S. administrations.
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